April 11, 2024

Exchange Student Trips USA [What to Expect & Where to Visit]

Image of male student smiling in front of camera wearing a backpack and standing in the middle of a busy street.

Exchange student programs can be an exciting opportunity to enrich both a student and a host family’s lives, with a chance to connect to new cultures, gain invaluable knowledge, and develop special bonds with people from across the globe. Exchange trips can be a great way for students to feel more immersed in their exchange experience and explore their new surroundings. This article will cover everything you have to know about exchange student trips in the USA, including: 

  1. What are exchange student programs?
  2. What are exchange student trips? 
  3. What are great exchange student trip locations? 
  4. How do you become a host for exchange students? 
  5. How can students start their exchange process?  

At Ayusa, we have spent over 40 years achieving our goal of supporting students around the world in getting access to study abroad and exchange programs. By partnering with host families and matching them with students, we aim to build and foster communities through our programs. Get in touch or request information to learn more. 

What Are Exchange Student Programs? 

A host family having dinner as part of an exchange student trip, laughing and enjoying the time they are sharing together.
Image Source: Ayusa

Before we get to exchange student trips, let’s take a step back: who are exchange students, and what are exchange student programs? An exchange student is a young person who comes from another country to live and learn in the United States. While many of these students are college aged, a large portion of them are foreign exchange high school students. Especially for these younger exchange students, the opportunity to study abroad at high school exchange programs in the USA can be life changing. 

Throughout their stay, these participants live with American families who host exchange students, sharing a mutual desire for learning, teaching, nurturing, and growing together. These host families provide a secure environment for living, sleeping, studying, and immersing themselves in American family life. Collaborating closely with the exchange organization and the local school, these families ensure that participants authentically experience a year in the U.S.

The primary objective of these programs is to foster cultural exchange, promote international understanding, and provide participants with exposure to an alternative education system and lifestyle. Research indicates a correlation between engagement in exchange programs and positive outcomes, such as higher starting salaries and an increased likelihood of pursuing postgraduate degrees.

What to Expect During Exchange Student Programs 

There are many different kinds of study abroad programs that bring exchange students to the United States. For older students, these may be similar to internships, or may involve enrolling in classes at a college or university. They can vary significantly in duration, too. Some may take an entire year, while others only last for the summer.

For younger students, these programs enable them to continue their secondary education without a hitch. That’s why high school exchange student programs usually line up with the academic year, lasting either the full year or one semester.

No matter the length of the program, exchange students travel to the United States on visas. Since exchange students come to experience the culture of the United States while sharing their own culture in turn, they are considered cultural exchange visitors. That’s why they typically receive J-category visas, which are specifically intended for participants in cultural exchange programs. 

To receive these visas, exchange students travel with a sponsor that guides them through the process. As a designated J-1visa sponsor by the U.S. Department of State, we help thousands of students reach their educational goals through a study abroad year. 

Once your J-1 visa application is accepted, you can take part in exchange programs as well as exchange student trips, where you can travel with fellow exchange students to go to cities on your bucket list—but more on that later. 

However, our team at Ayusa aren’t the only ones who make exchange programs possible. During their program year, high school exchange students live with a host family

These host families volunteer to welcome and care for a foreign exchange student, meaning they become like the student’s second family during their program year. Through our 40+ years of service, we have an effort to provide the best student exchange programs for both host families and exchange students alike.

What Are Exchange Student Trips in the USA? 

Exchange students are traveling to the U.S. for numerous reasons, whether that be more cultural knowledge, personal development, forming new relationships, or academic growth. No matter the reason, visiting a new country and spending their days with a host family will feel both intimidating and exciting, with feelings of homesickness and culture shock possibly appearing in the first few weeks of their stay. 

As time goes on, however, their anxieties will be replaced by an eagerness to explore as they are acclimated to their new environment. And as exchange students get more comfortable and curious, they may want to find new ways to make unique and cherished memories. That’s where exchange student trips can come in! 

Exchange student trips are shorter trips during an exchange student program, where students can visit famous American landmarks, iconic cities, and tourist attractions. These trips can typically last a few days and no longer than a week, as students are still attending classes during the academic year.

One option for students is to find exchange student trip packages that have a set itinerary, pricing, and dates. However, students need to be careful when searching online for such packages and check that they are legitimate. 

Another avenue for students to experience exchange student trips is to travel with their host family. Traveling together can foster closer bonds, as exchange students and their host family create new memories outside of their hometown. While this is not at all a requirement for hosting, this could be a great way to have exchange students engage with American history and culture, and share new experiences as a group. 

Exchange Student Trips USA: Where Should We Go? 

Imagine you are asked to list the most quintessential places that define the U.S.: where would those places be? For most exchange students, staying with their host family is probably the first time they have stepped foot in the U.S. Exchange student trips can be a great opportunity for students to tour famous American landmarks that are close to their host family’s home. Students are typically expected to pay for their own portion of these trips, but the memories of exploring with a host family can feel priceless. 

New York City 

The Big Apple is one of the most well known cities not just in the U.S., but in the world. Known for the bustling streets, the Statue of Liberty, beautiful museums, and diverse culture, NYC is a place constantly filled with tourists, and for good reason. 

For an exchange student trip, a possible itinerary could look like: 

  1. Go to Times Square and watch a Broadway show 
  2. Take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty 
  3. Spend the day museum hopping from the Met to the Guggenheim
  4. Visit Chelsea Market and try food from all over the world 
  5. Eat a classic slice of New York pie at Joe’s 
  6. Go to the tip top of the Empire State Building
  7. Ice skate at Rockefeller Center 

The list goes on. With endless things to do, New York City is a wonderful city where exchange students can get acquainted with the hustle and bustle of American metropolitan life. 

Los Angeles 

Taking a 180 and going to the other side of the coast is easy, breezy Los Angeles. Always sunny and filled with beaches, boardwalks, and nature trails, L.A. is a destination for students who want to experience the warmer side of the U.S. 

A L.A. itinerary could look like: 

  1. Watch a baseball game at Dodger Stadium 
  2. Explore the galaxies at Griffith Observatory 
  3. See the timeless Hollywood sign in the mountains 
  4. Walk through shopping hubs like Melrose Avenue 
  5. Spend the day lounging at Venice Beach 
  6. Drive a bit south and meet Mickey at Disneyland 

A place for relaxation, celebrities, and fun, Los Angeles provides a unique experience for exchange students to get a glimpse of California culture. 

Washington D.C. 

Last, but certainly not least, is Washington D.C. Filled with government buildings, memorials, and historical landmarks, D.C. is the perfect place for exchange students to visit if they want to learn more about American history or are interested in government and politics. 

A few days in Washington D.C. could look like: 

  1. Walk around then National Mall 
  2. See the White House and the U.S. Capital 
  3. Pay a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 
  4. Watch history come alive at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 
  5. Visit the Lincoln Memorial 
  6. Eat your way through Georgetown 

A perfect balance of learning and fun, Washington D.C. is bound to excite history buffs and curious exchange students who want to engage with American culture from its origins to the present day. 

Exchange Student Trips USA: How to Become a Host 

Navigating the path to becoming a host family involves a thoughtful application and selection process. Start by choosing a reputable exchange program like Ayusa, which prioritizes exceptional support and resources for both host families and students. 

The application journey includes expressing your interest, completing a comprehensive form, undergoing screening, and finally, selecting a student that aligns with your family's interests.

Once you've decided to embark on this enriching experience, understanding your responsibilities and expectations is crucial. As a host family, you'll be responsible for providing a safe and welcoming environment, offering food and transportation, facilitating the student's integration into family and community, and supporting their academic and personal development.

Creating a comfortable living space, encouraging open communication, involving them in family activities, being patient and understanding, and introducing them to friends and neighbors are essential tips for making your exchange student feel at home. Your support during their adjustment to a new country, language, and culture will significantly impact their personal growth and development.

As the exchange experience concludes, celebrating the shared moments becomes essential. Organize a farewell party, create a memory book or scrapbook filled with mementos, exchange contact information for future communication, plan reunions or visits, and continue supporting your exchange student on their ongoing journey. 

These gestures not only commemorate the experience but also foster a lasting bond that transcends borders and cultures, exemplifying the profound impact of human connection and understanding.

How AYUSA Helps People Become Host Families 

At AYUSA, our goal is to make hosting an exchange student feel more accessible and easier to navigate. To apply through our program, you would: 

  1. Indicate your interest: Fill out our interest form to receive more information and get connected with your local Ayusa representative.
  2. Complete your application: Your rep will be able to help you through your application, connect you with other host families, and answer any questions about the hosting experience. 
  3. Choose your student: Once your application is approved, your Ayusa representative will work with you to find a student to match your family’s interests and activities.  Community Representatives will also offer guidance and answer any questions.

How to Get Started: Students 

Ayusa boasts a diverse student body representing over 50 countries, each bringing unique cultures, backgrounds, interests, and aspirations for their future.

Ayusa identifies and attracts prospective students after collaborating with our international offices and recruitment partners. These entities rigorously evaluate applicants through a comprehensive screening process, which involves personality assessments, in-person interviews, school and teacher recommendations from their home country, all preceding acceptance.

To be eligible, all students must:

  • Be between the age range of 15 to 18
  • Satisfy English proficiency and academic grade criteria
  • Not have completed more than 11 years of schooling in their home country
  • Undergo a thorough medical assessment
  • Fulfill all required immunizations specified by the school
  • Adhere to all Department of State regulations

Students have the option to apply for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Program (YES), a grant initiative initiated in 2002 as a response to the events of September 11, 2001. Supported by the U.S. Department of State, this program provides scholarships to high school students hailing from over 40 countries characterized with significant Muslim populations, giving them the chance to reside with a host family in the U.S. for up to a year.

You can meet our students to learn more about the exchange student trip experience, or request more information if you are interested in next steps.

Exchange Student Trips USA with Ayusa

Exchange student trips in the USA can be a fun way for host families and exchange students to connect, building new memories as they travel to different parts of the country and sightseeing iconic American landmarks. Whether it’s a dozen or a thousand miles away, these trips will 

At Ayusa, we are experts in exchange student programs and are committed to making both the student and host’s exchange experience memorable and a success. We’re here to help you have the lifelong memories that come with student exchange programs.

If you’re ready to become a host, feel free to reach out to us for more information, or start your hosting application today! You can also look at our FAQs or  contact us for any questions–we’re here to support your exchange journey. 

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Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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